Wedding Cake Ideas that Work!
It will be beautiful, and you can do it!
Our wedding cake ideas start with the one everyone loves: it's a beautiful "Wind and Flowers" wedding cake. It takes little time and work. It's really not all that hard.
Our "secret" is to minimize the detailed icing, covering much of the cake with edible flowers instead. This means that you won't need to be spending hours trying to get the icing right. Instead, you can concentrate on getting the cake build, quickly iced, and then arranging the flowers.
There are tier sets available, cake toppers and so much more. Your local party shop should have some to choose from, and there and bunches of these items on-line.
This cake will serve 150 people - for $75 total.
Edible flowers are available from fruit and produce companies, the kind that supply restaurants. They are also available on-line. You can get many kinds, from purple orchids to the mixed assortment you see here. They run around $20 for a box of 100.
The "windy" icing pattern is simple to apply, simply by making swirl marks with a broad table knife or spoon. The flowers stick to the icing, and can be easily pulled off when serving.
To be a cake maker, you have to be a little bit of a builder. It is a structure. We've built this cake up using simple supports - you'll see how we did it. But there are other ways:
Tier kits are available at party stores and on-line, with many configurations for style and size. CupCake tier sets are another easy way to go.
Our method uses Wilton supplies and a little creativity. We've temporarily arranged our supports so you can see how we set it up. Try to envision the cake wrapped around our framework:
The supports and round plates go inside the cake after the six layers are baked. They hold the cake together and get removed as the cake is served.
The 4" pegs will be inserted into the cake.
The round separator plates will rest on the tops of the baked cake sections. The plate on the left is upside down so you can see the "teeth" that bite into the cake.
The pillars are available in lots of styles. These simple ones are 3" high.
The bottom and middle layers will be built, iced, assembled together and decorated at the kitchen. The top small cake on top will also be built, iced and decorated at the kitchen, but placed on top at the reception.
To save money, we cut the smaller cakes out, rather than buying two more pans. So we only used one 14" pan and cut the 12" and 8" cakes from it (and we froze the leftovers for later.) Notice how we did it in the pic on the left:
This recipe and procedure will feed 150 people for a reception dessert. Read about Party Food Quantities and how to plan for the right amounts.
Shopping List for 50 People:
From a Party Store, or on-line:
___1 - 12 pack of 4" cake pegs, Wilton Brand
___1 - 4 pack of 3" cake pillars, Wilton
___1 - 12" Separator Plate, Wilton
___1 - 8" Separator Plate, Wilton
___1 - 14"x2" Aluminum Round Baking Pan, Wilton
___1 - 16" Aluminum Round, or a round serving platter
From a Fruit and Produce Dealer:
___1 or 2, 100 count(depending on how many flowers you want)Edible flowers - you pick what kind (about $20 each)
From a Shopping Club: (or a grocery store if necessary)
___3 - 5 pound boxes of cake mix.
___1 - 10 pound bag of 10x confectioner's sugar
___5 - pounds of butter
___2 Tablespoons of Vanilla (white if you want a bright white icing, normal dark if you want a more yellow color)
From the grocery store:
___1 Tablespoon of salt
___1¼ cup of milk
___1 - vegetable oil spray
___1 - pound of flour
___1 - 16 ounce strawberry jam, cheap brand is fine
You need to make:
___1 cardboard circle, 7½ round, covered in aluminum foil
Two Days(or more) Before the Party:
Baking the Cakes:
TIP: You're baking six 14" cakes which get assembled together. You can do this several weeks ahead, wrap each one individually and tightly with film, and freeze. Or, you can do this up to two days before, again wrapping the cakes with film when they are cool.
What kind of cake?:
TIP: What kind of cake should you use? The heavier, denser cakes are the easiest to work with; light white/angle food are difficult. Chocolate cake can be more difficult to cover with a lighter icing. Here's our idea: Use a muffin mix and add 1/4 cup of baking powder to each 5 pound mix, you'll get a cake that tastes great and is easy to work with. Or, use a yellow cake mix.
Six - 2" Cakes:
You need six 2" high cakes: 2 - 14", 2 - 12" and 2 - 8". Change up the sizes as you like, but this amount of cake will feed 150. We used the same pan for all six cakes, then cut the smaller cakes out of the larger pan sizes.
Start by spraying the 14" pan with lots of vegetable oil spray. Then put a small handful of flour into the sprayed pan and shake it all around so that every spot of the inside of the pan is white. Set aside.
Hopefully you're using the 5 pound cake mixes. Preheat the oven according to the directions. Open one of them and equally divide the mix. One half box (2½ pounds) is just enough for the 14" x 2" pan. Follow the package instructions and prepare 2½ pounds of dry mix. Pour/spoon the batter into the floured 14" pan.
TIP: When you bake cakes, pour the batter into the center of the pan. Be careful not to "splash" or spill the batter onto the sides of the pan. Spread the batter out from the center, carefully, trying not to touch the sides. Or, hold the filled pan with one hand and gently tap/slap it on it's bottom. DON'T wiggle the pan from side to side, because you want a convex meniscus to form in the pan. (baker-speak...) ...a rise in the middle...
OK - bake one cake at a time. It's done when the internal temp is 190^. Let it rest in the hot pan for 5 minutes, and then carefully shake it out onto a flat surface to cool.
TIP: Is there a big dome in the middle of the cake, that sticks up above the sides of the pan? You don't want any part of the cakes to be higher than 2". Before you remove it from the pan, take a long bread knife and slice the round "bump" off the cake. Use the sides of the pan to guide your cut.
When the cakes are cool, wrap each one with film. Freeze, or use within 2 days.
One Day Before the Party:
The Buttercream Icing:
Most professional caterers buy premade icing - but your's is going to taste better, because it's made from scratch. The basic recipe is:
1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, pinch of salt, splash of vanilla, and 2 splashes of milk. So:
Remove the 5 pounds of butter from the fridge and allow to warm to room temperature.
TIP: Now's the time for an electric mixer (or prepare for a carpal tunneled homenmoon...) Use a handheld style in a large bowl, or make a few batches with a "stand" mixer.
In a huge bowl (like 24" in diameter,) or in batches, combine the 10 pounds of 10x sugar, 5 pounds of butter, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of vanilla, and 1¼ of milk.
NOTE: The yellow of the butter and dark vanilla gives a pastel yellow color to the icing - which we like. But if you want a brite white icing: 1) Substitute solid vegetable shortening (Crisco) for the butter, and add 2 tablespoons of butter flavoring (sold with extracts and spices.) 2) You need white vanilla: Vanilla is sold in it's natural dark color, or in a clear (called "white".) White is at least twice the price of natural, and it's usually not stocked at grocery stores. Some party stores carry it, baker's supply stores and Wilton retailers have it, or get it on-line.
Mix, mix, mix... Nice and smooth. If it's too thick, add water. Too thin - add more sugar. Cover the icing with film when not in use.
We like strawberry, but use whatever jam or jelly you like. It's just 4 parts icing to 1 part jam. So: In a separate bowl, mix together 4 pounds of icing to 1 pound of jam. Add fresh fruit if you want. Be creative!
Build the Cake:
For a strong base, use a 16" aluminum round or a large, round serving platter. Don't put paper doilies, paper or foil under the cake because it will get mixed up in the cake when it's cut.
Center the first 14" cake on the base. Notice that we flip the cake upside down, so the bottom of the cake faces up.
The cake is much easier to ice this way.
Put some filling on top of the first cake, and then place the second 14" cake on top - also upside down. (All the cakes go upside down.)
Using the 4" pegs, push them through the 2 - 14" cakes.
This will hold them in place. Put four in now.
TIP: If the cakes are less than 4" high, the plastic pegs can be easily cut to length with scissors, a knife or wire cutters. Just be sure to cut all four to the same height.
Spread filling over the second 14" cake, right over the 4" pegs, covering them.
On top of that, center the 12" separator plate, directly onto the icing/filling, right on the cake. Be sure to have the square "teeth" facing down, biting into the top of the 14" cake.
Cover the serarator plate with icing. The plate has filling under it and icing on top of it.
Use a round plate, pot lid or whatever for a 12" round pattern. Place on top of the next cake, and cut. You'll be trimming off 1" around from the next 14" cake. Do this twice, so that you have 2 - 12"x 2" cakes. Save, wrap and freeze the cut outs.
TIP: Use the separator plates for patterns and cut all the cakes at one time.
TIP: For a little more definition (and a few less servings,) cut the middle cake to 11".
Center the first 12" cake on the separator plate that's on the 14" cake. Put filling over it, and then place the second 12" cake on top of it.
Now insert 4 more 4" pegs, just like you did with the bottom layer.
Again, spread filling over the second 12" cake, right over the 4" pegs, covering them. On top of that, center the 8" separator plate, directly onto the icing/filling, right on the cake. Be sure to have the square "teeth" facing down, biting into the top of the 12" cake.
Cover the plate with icing, just like you did before.
The Top Layer:
Use a round plate, pot lid or whatever for a 8" round pattern. Place on top of the next cake, and cut. You'll be trimming off 3" around from the next 14" cake. Do this twice, so that you have 2 - 8" x 2" cakes. Save, wrap and freeze the cut outs.
Use the 7½" cardboard round you make as a base for the top cake. It's visible here in this pic taken from underneath.
TIP: If you plan to freeze this cake for later (like on your first anniversary,) buy a third 8" separator plate and use it upside down, so the teeth bite into the bottom of the cake.
Assemble the top cake on the base, just as you did with the bottom and middle layers. Insert the last 4 pegs. No need to put a plate on top, just icing.
Ice the Cake
At this point, you have two cakes, which will become one...(couldn't resist...) One is the bottom and middle layers, alreadly assembled into one cake. And, you have the top cake. Ice both cakes.
As you apply the icing, remember that this is a "Wind and Flowers" design. The icing is supposed to look wind-blown, so don't worry about getting it perfectly smooth.
Remember, you are icing right over the plates and pegs.
Carefully cover all the leftover icing and filling. You'll be taking them to the reception.
Apply the Flowers:
We like to unpack the flowers and sort them according to color and size. Based on what kinds, colors and sizes you have, decide how you want to arrange them on the cake.
The flowers should stick to the wet icing with just a push of your finger. But if necessary, wet the icing or the flower with water, and try again.
Decorate both cakes with flowers.
On the Day of the Party:
Get Packed Up:
Take the following to the Reception:
___The 3" pillar set
___The leftover icing and tools to spread it
___Any other cake decorations you have
At The Reception:
There should be a small table set aside for the cake. When that's set up in it's place and covered, place the bottom and middle cake on it.
Assemble the Cake:
Place the 4 pillars on top of the second layer. They should rest directly on the 8" separator plate. Position them in a square pattern so that they will support the top cake. Place the top cake on the pillars.
Notice that the pillars are resting on the plate below and the cardboard/plate above.
Cover any bumps or bruises with flowers and/or icing. Use any additional flowers to decorate the cake table itself.
Presentation: Your Eyes Eat First
Serving the Cake:
Have 5" plates ready, cut pieces of cake and place right on the dessert plates to serve. As you come on the pegs and plates, carefully remove them to one side and keep cutting. Use the extra icing and filling to touch up pieces of cake that need a little more - places where the plates were.
We tend to cut around the flowers, using them as a garnish for each plate.
Wrap and freeze what you can. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too!
Check out some Appetizers!
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Questions about The Wedding Cake? Wanna talk something through? Use the form below to ask us about quantities, substitutions, whatever. We're here to help. Ask a Caterer is free:
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